View inside the Packard plant in Detroit, Michigan
Today’s New York Times continues their vaunted tradition of juxtaposing the immiseration of the poor in their front pages with the glittering decadence of American art in their Arts & Entertainment section.
On the front page is the story of inner-city Detroit’s decline into third world misery, with 38 percent of the residents living below the poverty line. The Times only takes the story so far, not bothering to examine the causes for Detroit’s demise. Naturally, since the primary cause for Detroit’s destruction is it’s looting by the banking class who has no stauncher ally than the New York times itself, along with the rest of the corporate media without exception.
Margaret Kimberly writing for Black Agenda Report on “The Plunder of Detroit and Iraq” provides a capsule description of what happened to Detroit and every other city visited by American-style free market capitalism:
The ugly face of empire and disaster capitalism is visible all over the world. Detroit, Michigan, was once a thriving city but was sent into a tailspin by the deindustrialization of the United States, white flight, and institutional racism which blamed black people who were in fact the victims of the catastrophe. The coup de grace was delivered by big banks like UBS, Bank of America and Barclays, which sold risky derivatives to corrupt Detroit politicians. When the financial deal inevitably headed south, the banks were the creditors first in line for a payout.
The Guardian reported recently about Detroit’s water war “in which 150,000 customers, late on bills that have increased 119 percent in the last decade, are now threatened with shut-offs”, a condition that the UN experts have ruled would constitute a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.” Of course, the US doesn’t recognize human rights of this kind when it comes to poor people, whether in other countries or within its own borders. The US firmly believes in the right of extending cruelty to whomever it feels deserves it, as Charles Pierce reflects in The United States of Cruelty. And the people who invariably deserve it are the poor.
To relieve their readers minds of the burdens of this reality, the New York Times offers their readers the wonderful Arts section. Today we’re treated to a worshipful review of Jeff Koons’ majestic Whitney Retrospective by the reliably servile Roberta Smith. Smith makes an obligatory nod to cognitive dissonance involved in switching from the horrors on the front page to the “Gilded Age excess” and “art star hubris” invariably featured in the Arts pages. But other than single guilty nod to this glaring discrepancy Smith plunges into the business at hand: touting of the remarkable intelligence of the curator of the show, the genius of Jeff Koons, and by implication the discriminating tastes of the financial class who have visited this shining sea of shit on cultural institutions throughout the world.
Oddly enough, the arts writers never bother to connect complete wreckage that the Capitalist class have made of America (and the rest of the world they’ve plundered) with their support of the art so unfailingly empty and banal, it’s hard to imagine anything that artists could make to provide a lower standard of museum-worth artworks. But rest assured they’ll keep trying.
And if they find financial backing, no doubt the buoyant Roberta will provide the necessary art “criticism”, more commonly referred to as ludicrous gibberish by those in the know, that explains exactly why artists of the caliber of Jeff Koons effortlessly churn out world-shaking masterpieces.
Smith writes: “Conflating Minimalism, Pop and Conceptual Art in a gift-wrapped version of Duchamp’s ready-made, they were the first of several shocks–“Is it art?” “Is it any good?” “Do I love it or hate it?”–that Mr. Koons has regularly delivered to his expanding audience over the last four decades.”
Shocks no doubt to the goose-like mentality of Roberta Smith and apparently to the art world lemmings swallowing this nonsense, while they breathlessly await the next stale fart of an idea Koons comes up with. Four decades of repeating the same Duchampian joke, that was tired long before Jeff Koons was even born, but each time jolting Roberta Smith and Co. with the shock of the new. Is Roberta Smith an addlepated nitwit or simply a stooge for the ruling class? Inquiring minds want to know.
Are these the linguistic stylings of a deranged half-wit or the brilliant wordplay of a gifted huckster trying to turn a ton of plastic doo-doo into Investment Gold?
“A brilliantly installed exhibition… a stunning allé of bizarre Pharaonic splendor… virginal purity… newness itself…the erotic and, to some extent, the scatological are never far beneath the surface in Mr. Koon’s art…. a respite from the sex paintings around it… centers are brown bumpy discs … a creepy fecundity suggestive of erupting skin, simmering mud or sewage…essential seduction-repulsion dynamic…a classical installation… Symmetry and perpendicularity reign…circling back to expand on ideas…certain themes recur: the abiding interest in flotation, inflation and hollow forms as states of grace; the human desire for things, for other people and for joy; the inherent energy of objects…immaculate incubating basketballs…the accouterments of alcohol consumption…This seems déclassé… ”
A stunning allé … this seems déclassé… Whatever her motives or actual beliefs what Smith writes is pretentious bilge, part of the vast ocean of bilge slushing through the art journals, which as everyone knows amount to no more than sales brochures.
Roberta Smith, writing rubbish to describe rubbish. Fitting.
Jeff Koons is the perfect avatar of Potemkin America. While our poor sink into the rubble of abandoned sections of our decaying cities, the intellectual class strut around as American Caesars, instructing the world on their moral behavior. In our cultural precincts, the rich and credulous middle classes masturbate themselves silly over artists like Jeff Koons with their smarmy paeans to excrement, jism, shiny toys and self-absorbed childhood regression. As Smith writes, what we’re treated to is on the order of “erupting skin, shimmering mud or sewage.” More like all three combined.